Even the Flaws Must be Flawless

Draft 14 and Cameroned

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

Two different people, two different stances. They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. The result? Draft fifteen and counting.

I would have uploaded Gnaw by now if I didn’t have such a hang-up about perfection even though I know perfection isn’t possible. Yes, I was tempted to take Gnaw, published ten years ago, accept the flaws, pass them off as engineered and make it a quick repurpose job for ebook but I’ve learnt a lot in ten years. Readers deserve more than that. The characters themselves deserve more that that. When I wrote the male character initially, my protagonist did not need understand him. On re-read it nagged me. This guy could not just be a stooge for her musing; he had to be a real problem in his own right, an addition to the equation, possibly even a solution? It took nerve to develop Kenneth, who before was named after an alcoholic spirit (or pub), and make him more of a nuisance in his own right, but ‘our Kenneth’ is now firmly planted on the ground a spanner in the works for however long he lives in this format.

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Rewriting it was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. Like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. I have excavated it, dusted it down and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that story now because I am less afraid of love (Illustration: Jennifer Brady).

Another change: Gnaw was always a love story and within that, there was a metaphor for addiction. However while the metaphor was there, the love story was absent. I have put that love story in now. I had to be careful doing that. It was like a piece of archaeological reconstruction. In the weirdest piece of rewriting ever, I had to respect the original writer (myself in this case), and ascertain from evidence (ie the printed story), what that story was. It was like trying to conjure an urn out of a rim. Had I genuinely intended to leave the love story out back then? Or was I simply hidden to it? I have made a call on that now, excavated it, dusted it down with tact and extracted the details. Perhaps I am less afraid of that love story now because I am less afraid of love.

The title remains. There is no better one. The conundrum and solution is summed up in that title. I still believe that. It is the firmest artefact in the reconstruction of this particular rewrite.

So, after fourteen drafts of Gnaw in its new form, it did finally get to the copy-editor before Christmas (see previous post: Postcard to an Editor). I also sent it for a ‘stress test’ read with author and peer Janet Cameron. Two different people, two different stances, the result? They baulked in their own ways at the same things, things I thought were fine, until I read their reasonable assertions. Now, with draft fifteen incorporating editorial comments done, I realise I’ll need at least two or three more to get it close to flawless.

…The One-eyed Man is King

Janet Cameron’s intriguing whirlwind of notes. Note the slashes to indicate the incidence of the repetition of words like are not unlike the marks a prisoner might make on the wall of a cell. Note also the shortcuts to the action. These historic notes go with the prize.

Janet Cameron’s intriguing whirlwind study notes on ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Note the slashes to indicate the incidence of repetition are not unlike the marks a prisoner might make on the wall of a cell. Note also the shortcuts to the action. These historic notes go with the prize.

Normally I’ve to work hard for my rewards so you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I turned up at the Central Hotel in Dublin on Friday night and was presented out of the blue with a prize. The presentation was given by a small group of writers consisting of 1) Hennessy Short Story finalist and crime-writer Colm O’Shea 2) Eye-surgeon and writer Ian Flitcroft the creator of the thoroughly enjoyable ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’. 3) Novelist Janet Cameron of ‘Cinnamon Toast And The End of The World’ fame, blog writer with the gift of the gab and a scathing sense of humor. It was Janet who presented me with the prize, the prize being a copy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

A new take on the perpetual trophy? One copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ up for grabs, the next winner will be the third owner.

A new take on the perpetual trophy? One copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ up for grabs, the next winner will be the third owner.

Now, I’m no literary snob but I did read an extract of this title in the national newspaper a while back and made a decision that I wouldn’t prioritize it as a read. Not that I’m against erotic fiction. I admire the intense prose of Anaïs Nin for example and the sexual tension in Nabokov’s Volshebnik (‘The Enchanter’), is a gem read. But if the writing slips, the content becomes porn and that tires quickly. But, the tongue-in-cheek backlash (‘scuse the pun) against EL James from the educated classes bothers me too. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a benchmark book, it’s a positive example of self-publishing, it’s a digital-first title only going to print when earned its stripes as online bestseller proving that publishing globally online is a very different thing to the traditional gatekeeper type-publishing with its neat print runs. I commend this title if only for shattering some obstructive legacy thinking. But I really did not want to buy it. Or borrow it from the library, or have it on my ereader or what not.  Nor did I want to put it on the  ‘to be read’ list in the Goodreads list alongside Munro and Franzen. The lurking snobbery of that bothered me.

All four of us in of the Central Hotel crew had reasons for not reading it but our reasons were dubious. Mine, apart from snobbishness, was that I might find myself crippled with writers’ block jealousy that I hadn’t written it first. Ian Flitcroft was the most open-minded saying that at least it opened up reading ‘at all’ to a group of people who ordinarily wouldn’t go near a book. Colm O’Shea, to be fair, confessed it wasn’t his genre at all, but perhaps if it were more gritty with a bit of murder thrown in? Maybe. The book bothered Janet too. Here we were, bitching about something we hadn’t read, it felt that the time had come to read the thing. So being excellent delegators and knowing that time is precious, much like a study group, we nominated one person to read for all and report back. Janet Cameron was nominated as reader for all. She would keep us updated via her blog and ‘just for fun’ she decided also to throw in 50 pages of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ and 50 pages of a lesbian biker novel called ‘Satan’s Best’ so we could get a balance on ‘pure trash, great literature and middle-brow trash, all concerning sex.’ What emerged was a very concise report that will not only make you laugh but is clearly a solid draft for the “For Dummies – Fifty Shades of Grey’.

Ian Flitcroft’s culinary obsessive ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ is a treat to read. The writing is meticulously researched, the passion of subject is irresistible and touch of the macabre gives it a unique fleshy edge.

Ian Flitcroft’s culinary obsessive ‘The Reluctant Cannibals’ is a treat to read. The writing is meticulously researched, the passion of subject is irresistible and touch of the macabre gives it a unique fleshy edge.

An advantage of Cameron’s report is that she wades through the surplus flesh (sorry!) and points out the pages where serious action occurs. You don’t even have to bother with the thin plot if needs be. When the going gets tough, Cameron casts Ana as Cillian Murphy, which sort of helps keep it interesting. Cameron spotted a failing of imagination in the book as follows: Despite all the spanking and follow up penetrative sex, Grey’s order for Ana (aka Cillian Murphy) to be ‘on first name terms’ with his ‘considerable length’ is never fully realized. A star without a name? So Janet opened up a competition. The challenge was to name Grey’s favorite body part. The winner would get a ‘used’ copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Naturally I rushed to enter the competition. The naming of the part (or parts – for they are, to my holistic mind, inseparable) fired up my imagination but more importantly IF I won it would solve the snobbish dilemma re how to have the book without buying or borrowing it. I confess when presented with the prize publicly I did blush and ask for a bag to take it home in, concerned that I might encourage unwanted chat with some drunken langer on the last bus. As to what Grey’s dong and associated parts are now called? Go to Janet Cameron’s website Part III to find out! Spot the dearth of imagination. Could it be that I was the only one who entered? So it seems, as they say, in the land of the blind…

To spread the love I now open the competition to find a new name for the ‘member’ he (or she) who wins gets the printed book posted or even better presented to them in public, only after I’ve read the interesting parts